Leaders also cautioned residents to say diligent, saying they're worried about a spring surge.By Nicole Ford

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Allegheny County leaders announced plans to launch a new vaccine registration system and expanded eligibility for its vaccine clinics on Wednesday.

The county’s vaccine clinics are now open to anyone in Phase 1A, whereas before it was for people 65 and older and those 50 to 64 with high-risk conditions.

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The state’s 1A group is for people ages 16 to 64 with conditions like cancer, COPD, pregnancy and type 2 diabetes.

Right now, the county has clinics in Castle Shannon, Ross Township, the Hill District and at the Petersen Events Center. They’re all appointment-only.

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Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald says the new registration tool will allow residents to pre-register so they can be notified when clinics they’re eligible for open. It’ll also prevent ineligible people from registering for clinics, he says.

Fitzgerald says more information will be coming next week on how people can register.

On Wednesday, 498 new COVID-19 cases were reported in Allegheny County. It’s been months since we’ve seen a number that high and county leaders fear this is the beginning of a third surge.

“We hear people are gathering with friends in larger groups and many are without mask and there are large groups at many establishments and less physical distancing than is recommended,” said Health Director Dr. Debra Bogen.

Dr. Bogen said the median age of positive cases is now early 30s. Her message to those residents is to stay diligent and follow the recommendations to prevent a third surge of case numbers in a year.

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Bogen also pointed to variants, saying there are 33 known cases of the U.K. variant in the county and that’s “just the tip of the iceberg.” She says the U.K. variant is estimated to be 50% more transmissible.